I have a dear friend who has trouble reconciling scientific names with common names. I tell her a certain popular tree is Liquidambar and she’s OK with that until another friend tells her it’s a sweetgum. “Oh, no,” she’ll say, “my friend who knows all about these things says it’s a Liquidambar!” But her friend will insist. Then she’s confused. Last summer she told me she found out the name of a plant – it had the same name as a state, but she couldn’t remember which. I told her to point it out to me. She did. “That’s an Acanthus,” I said. “That’s it,” she said, “an Arkansas.” (Maybe she’s a little too hooked on phonics.) I used to despise common names. But now, I have become somewhat fond and always amused by them. It gives people a chance to wax nomenclaturally poetic, although botanists do that often enough with the scientific names as well. What I do despise are the phony common names often found in flora, where the author invents a “common name” for a plant lacking one. When a plant lacks a common name it’s either because the plant is not common or because few people are interested in it; the only people who are interested in it are precisely the people who would use the scientific name.